Inkjet is a mature technology that began as a solution to mark cartons, add addressing information to marketing mail, and spray variable data on to offset print. In the early days, the print quality didn’t meet the requirements for commercial printing, but over the last decade, the technology has made the transition from low-resolution marking to high-quality, sellable commercial and transactional print. Today, you can select an inkjet solution that meets your investment needs, print quality needs, speed/capacity needs, and your desire for roll-fed or sheet-fed production. There are monochrome-only solutions, process color solutions, and an increasing number of four-color-plus inkjet presses opening the door to expanded gamut options and the addition of specialty inks, such as UV fluorescing inks or MICR inks, to meet the needs of printers in most print segments.

Inkjet options have become so expansive that printers utilizing or examining the technology have the greatest number of potential solutions we have seen in the market. Picking the best solution requires a critical look at both the inkjet machines available as well as the nature of the print business you plan to support. In many cases, the hardware vendors have lots of information on the technical specifications, what paper their devices support, and even some total cost of operation information. That said, they may not have information about how a specific device will support products needed in specific industry verticals or help for printers who want to create differentiated products for the industry segments they serve.

Adopting an inkjet device will not magically reduce costs, expand substrate capabilities, or implement new products on its own. That takes work on your part, the buyer of the device, your sales and marketing teams, your production teams, and your selected vendors (who should be supporting you throughout your implementation and transition to inkjet). Furthermore, moving an older inkjet device out and bringing a newer one in might bring more capacity, high resolution (with its implied better print quality), and a greater range of substrate options, but it also may not bring more profit unless every touchpoint in your business is prepared for the capabilities of the new machine. Moving a new inkjet device in to augment or replace existing toner printing options can create capacity in the plant, but again, unless that capacity is sold responsibly, there may not be enough profit to cover the costs of the new machine. Lastly, moving an inkjet device in to augment or replace offset presses also impacts capacity planning, job scheduling, the type of work that can be sold, and how it can be priced.

For every printer looking carefully at what inkjet technology can bring to their print production, consider doing a careful assessment of your business plans, the products you support, your finishing capacity, and your actual capacity needs. How much additional capacity can you fill if you buy a faster machine? What additional products could you bring to your portfolio with higher resolution capability? How will you adjust your pricing policies to account for the costs associated with supporting inkjet printing? These are only a few of the questions, but even with these, any printer should be able to create realistic key performance indicators to test against as they look at adopting inkjet. It is a great technology that can open many options, but it does take planning.

Pat McGrew is Senior Director, Production Services, Keypoint Intelligence. If you have stories to share, reach out to her by contacting @PatMcGrew on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or

This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2019 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.